Friday, August 22, 2008

News - 08/22/08...

New film by "Spirited Away" director wows Japan

Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki of Oscar-winning animated film "Spirited Away" has captured the hearts of Japanese movie goers again, this time with a tale of a mermaid which will soon be seen around the world.

"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," about the friendship between a five-year-old boy and a mermaid girl who wishes to live in his world, has become one of the most popular Japanese movies in its home market in its first month of release.

Box office sales have surpassed 10 billion yen ($91 million) ($1=109.87 Yen), and the film's theme tune features as a ringtone on thousands of Japanese mobile phones.

The film is also set to be shown at the Venice Film Festival, which starts next week, and then it will be distributed in the United States, said a spokesman for Japanese distributor, Toho Co Ltd, although details have not been set.

"It was full of dreams and heart-warming. I think many people are seeking something like this," said 39-year-old Miyuki Ueda, who watched the film with her sons.

"Ponyo was really cute," said Yuta, her 14-year-old son.

Miyazaki has released a string of hit animation films that have helped revive the Japanese movie industry, directing three of the top five selling movies in Japan in the past seven years, industry figures from the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan show.

As well as 2001's "Spirited Away," about a little girl who wanders into a spirit world and which won an Academy Award for best animated film in 2003, Miyazaki has wooed Japanese filmgoers with 2004's "Howl's Moving Castle," about a boy wizard who fights for justice in a magical world.

Ponyo's story line is similar to Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid," which was also the basis of 1989's popular Disney animated film by the same name.

"Spirited Away" launched Miyazaki on to the world stage, but film critic Ryusuke Hikawa says it's too early to say if "Ponyo" would be as successful.

"Miyazaki sticks to creating animated films by hand-drawing. In that sense his works are old-type animation," he said.

"But that's what makes them universally appealing."

In 2006, local films outperformed foreign movies in Japanese movie theatres for the first time in 21 years.

While Miyazaki did not have a movie that year, his son, Goro Miyazaki, carried on the family tradition with animated cartoon, "Tales of Earthsea," based on a U.S. tale of two battling wizards. The film was the top grossing movie in Japan in 2006.

Toon Zone Interviews Voice Actor Hynden Walch: Alien Girls and Killer Clowns

It was a very pleasant discovery to find that voice actor Hynden Walch is as delightfully energetic, outgoing, and endearing as many of the charcters she provides voices for. She may be best known as Starfire on Teen Titans, but in her 10 years in the voice acting business, she has provided voices for projects as diverse as MGM's direct-to-video movie The Secret of NIMH 2, Nickelodeon's ChalkZone, Warner Brothers' The Batman and Batman: Gotham Knight, and the anime projects Lucky Star, Gurren Lagann, and IGPX.

Walch was in New York City leading her "Animation in the City" seminar on the craft and business of voice acting. Toon Zone News was able to sit in for part of the seminar, and sit down with her for a quick chat after the seminar was finished.

TOON ZONE NEWS: You started your schooling at the North Carolina School of the Arts, is that right?

Yeah, that's right! I went to high school there for music. For singing.

TZN: So it wasn't for acting?

No, at the time they didn't have an acting program for high school, and I just really needed to get out of where I was living. It was great. And I've always been a singer, so it was great training, a great school. Go NCSA! (laughs)

TZN: You've also got a degree from UCLA for American Literature, I think...

Yeah, that's right, I just went back much later, and I went for fun.

TZN: So this was already after you started acting?

I just graduated 2 years ago. So I just went for fun, to do something different, focus on something different. Use a different part of my brain.

TZN: What kind of training have you had as an actress, then?

I do by doing. I hear so many actors go, "Oh, yes, it's so important to take classes." I don't think so. I feel like if you want to bone up on your skills, go do a play. The audience will tell you what's going on, better than somebody else who might have maybe an agenda of their own (laughs). I went to the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music for about 10 minutes when I was 18, and that was because my parents really, really, really, really, really, Really, really, REALLY, REALLY wanted me to go to college (laughs). NCSA is a professional school in just every sense of the word. There, you're assessed on your ability, not on your age, so you can go right into college music classes as a sophomore in high school, and it's just fine. But going to Cincinnati was a different thing. It was different people, it was very different teachers. It was funny though: when I told my parents I was leaving, they said they were surprised that I had hung around that long.

TZN: So how did you get into voice acting?

I had always wanted to do it. I was in Chicago, where there's a lot of commercials, but there's no animation. Finally, when I moved to L.A., I asked my agents if they knew any voice-over agents, and they said, "Oh, yes, we do!" So I went in and read some copy for them and they said, "Great!" So then -- I said this to the class earlier -- I had to audition for four years. Going in for four years and getting absolutely nothing, to the point where you feel like your voice is going into a black hole. It's a very exclusive group in voice acting.

I finally got a break, and I got a chance. I did the MGM movies which was what started my voice acting career. I did the leads in The Secret of NIMH 2 and Tom Sawyer, and then I played Penny on a show called ChalkZone on Nickelodeon, which started very early on and then went into hibernation and then came back.

TZN: And then it was Starfire in Teen Titans?

Well, then it's Stanley on Disney, and then Teen Titans. They were all going on at the same time. And then it kind of kept going from there.

TZN: How were you cast for Starfire?

Just auditioning. Same as everybody else. I got really lucky in that I knew Andrea Romano. I had done a guest role for her on Static Shock, and she said she would be looking for stuff for me at that point. And then Teen Titans came up, and it was love! (laughs)

TZN: Were you familiar with the character from the comics at all?

No, not at all.

TZN: Did you get familiar afterwards?

Yup. I did my research. But, of course, Starfire animated is very different from the one in the comic book (laughs).

TZN: Yeah, a little bit less va-va-voom in the animated series.

Oh, my yes.

TZN: Where did you get the Starfire character from? What were you inspired by?

(Click to listen to Walch's response) Where it came from really for me was the fact that she could fly. That I knew she could fly...something just clicked in my head about air. So that's where all the gasping came from. That wasn't really in the script originally, but I heard from the network, "They love the way you gasp." (laughs) And so it was all (as Starfire) "*GASP*!!! Robin?" You know, and so everything with Starfire is air air air. Breathing and air and everything is AIR, and TOTAL connection with your heart. The emotions are just on her breath, and that was...Oh, that sounds so hokey and actor-y, but that's where it came from, really (laughs). It was just, you know, breathe, and lots of breath and lots of heart. Oh, and the fact that she was a genius. She's just from out of town. (laughs). Fish out of water, but an absolute genius. She's just not familiar with the culture.

TZN: Do you have a favorite episode or a favorite performance on the show?

I really liked episode 2, "Sisters," because I was Blackfire, too. The whole recording session was me talking to myself, which was fun. Blackfire is me at age 14. Just a very, very bad kid. (laughs) And so it was really fun to contrast that, and I'm sure my face was going from sweet Starfire to bad Blackfire. Just back and forth. It was really schizophrenic and really fun.

TZN: From the outside looking in, it seems like one of the harder things to do as Starfire were the times where she has to be really funny without being aware that she's being funny. Is that something that you felt doing the character?

Did I shoot for comic timing?

TZN: Yeah.

No. That was the key to the comic timing -- just play it absolutely straight, like I didn't get the joke.

TZN: And just let the writing do the work for you.

Exactly. Just be absolutely earnest about it.

TZN: Do you have any great stories about events in the booth? I know Andrea Romano likes recording ensemble, so you were always with the other Titans voice actors.

We were all always together, and I call it the studio of love because of that show. We all just LOVED each other: the producers, the crew, the cast. Everybody was just nuts about each other and had so much fun. Andrea told me once that she likes to cast in the same way that she would like to invite really great people to a fabulous dinner party, so she chooses personalities that she knows will get along. That absolutely happened on the show, to the extent that we're almost scared that it will NEVER happen to us again (laughs). It was SO much love in that room all the time, and I think you can tell from watching the show.

Oh, and can I say for the record that Andrea Romano is the best voice director in the world, and I adore her. I just wanted to say that.

TZN: I think a lot of our readers would agree.

Everyone would agree. They'd be crazy not to.

TZN: Did you ever stumble over the crazy alien things that they had you say?

Oh, Tamaranian? David Slack, the writer, said he'd got to the point of writing so much Tamaranian that he could conjugate the verbs. But no, actually, it was all so clearly written that we all just got used to it, and so it was fun.

TZN: You were also Harley Quinn in The Batman. Did you have to audition for that role?

(Click to listen to Walch's response) Oh, yes. Everybody has to audition. Well, almost everyone. There was sort of a story about that, but I don't think I can tell you. But know that the first time I ever saw Harley Quinn on Batman the Animated Series, played by the amazing Arleen Sorkin, I was just like, "*gasp*! I wish I could play that role! That's like the BEST part EVER!!! I wish I could play her some day." And then when it happened, it was just so cool. I was so grateful.

TZN: Paul Dini actually created the character with Arleen Sorkin in mind.


TZN: How do you take a character like that and try to make it your own?

Well, I didn't try to make it my own. I tried to make it Harley, and that was the best thing I could do. I mean, I can't speak to everyone on The Batman, but I know that we were all really just trying to tune in to the iconic characters we were playing. Because when you're a voice actor, it's not about you, it's about the character. If there's a history of that character, you want to be as true to that as you possibly can be without voice matching. Just keep the spirit alive and have it come out in your own voice. I know that's what I did.

TZN: So what kind of difference were you aiming for in The Batman vs. Arleen Sorkin in Batman the Animated Series?

WALCH: A difference? Hmmmm...I'm not as well versed in Batman the Animated Series as I might be. What happened for the audition was that I got Arleen Sorkin's influences from the original. I was like, "Go watch Born Yesterday," go get the gun moll kind of thing. It probably would have thrown me and intimidated me if I had gotten out Batman the Animated Series and watched that a million times before my audition, so it was just going back to the source of it. But I just love her. (laughs) Harley is just so cool.

TZN: You just also started getting more roles in anime voice acting, like you're the female lead in Gurren Lagann now. Do you find it's very different doing the roles in anime voice acting than it is in regular voice acting?

Well, they're very different things. I just told the class that the main difference is that anime is harder. It's much, much harder to do, but anime is what's being made right now, whereas they're making much less cartoons right now.

TZN: Would you say that moving into anime is just a necessity to keep doing the work, then?

Um, it's the wanting to know, make pretty voices to pretty pictures? (laughs) Which is a really fun way to work, or spend the afternoon, so yeah, as long as it's fun, then I'll keep doing anime. It is hard, though. It is very hard.

TZN: You don't have as much freedom with the performance as you would. You have to match the lip flaps and all that.

Yes, and it's piecemeal. And you never get to act with anybody and you never get to do a whole scene. It's just chop-chop-chop-chop-chop. And unless you ask specially, you don't get to read the script before you record it.

TZN: How do you adjust as an actress to that?

Well, I ask for the script, number one (laughs), which may be greeted as a very odd request, but that way I know what character I'm playing and what's going on in the story, which I'd think would be an essential part of doing it. And then, you just roll with it.

TZN: What did you mean that you have to do the work piecemeal?

If you have a paragraph in anime, I would be doing it one sentence at a time, which gets a little tricky. And it's honestly taking a big risk to do anime as an original actor, because if it comes back sounding like ass (laughs), then that's not good, and you're really at the mercy of your voice director to hope that these pieces that you've done actually sound like a cohesive paragraph or a cohesive scene when you're done. Because you're doing them again and again and again and again, right in a row. Even as small as a sound, you can do three takes of one syllable. It's like, "Why am I doing this? What's the context? (laughs) What's going on?" "We don't have time. Next." It's really crazy. I mean, I think anime is beautiful. I went to visit Studio IG in Tokyo, when I was working on IGPX for them, and it was just so cool to see the artists at work and just to see how amazing the stuff was that they were creating. I think it's gorgeous.

TZN: What do you do when you can't find the character?

Hmmm...a regular character, or an incidental character?

TZN: A regular character.

Well, you had to have found it before you got there, or you wouldn't have gotten the job, so that makes life a lot easier. And if you can't find it when you're auditioning for it, then you don't get the job. But there's absolutely no right and wrong with this. I was telling the class that creators, producers, writers, executives, casting directors...they all have different ideas about what these characters sound like, and none of them agree. None of us agree on anything. And so, basically, I told them (Click listen to Walch's response) the only guaranteed way to get a job, to get cast, is to read the producers' unconscious minds, and then give them exactly what it is that they think they want on a level that they can't access consciously. So...(laughs), it's really hard (laughs). And a lot of times, when you go in to audition, your part will change. Actors go around thinking, "Oh, I really must have done a bad job, I thought I was great, why didn't I get this show?" It's because, well, you're 37-year old woman, and they just changed the role to a 65-year old man, or they just killed the project. So it wasn't the actor...the show's gone. And we never really get to hear about that on the acting side of things, so we just blame ourselves (laughs). It's sad, but true.

TZN: In the class, you mentioned your own projects. I don't know how much you can talk about them right now...

Oh, almost nothing. Pretty much almost nothing. Don't TELL anyone. (laughs)

TZN: Well, we can say that you're working on SOMETHING.

Yes, I am now in the ideas man business. (Laughs)

TZN: I guess it means you're moving over to the other side of the booth, though.

No such thing. You can do everything all at once. You really can. If you're doing an animated show, it's like two hours of your time a week, so there is plenty of time to be doing other things. You can always have your hands on.

TZN: Do you think that there's been anything that you've picked up from doing the recording that you're saying, "OK, make sure to do this, or NOT to do that?"

Absolutely. I come at it completely from an audio/voice actor standpoint, which is something that's really unusual when it comes to show creators and writers. I'm not sure I can even say this, but we did casting on a show I developed way before we were supposed to, just because I was saying, "We need to get these voices in here, just so we know who we're talking about." I know how that works on a show, where the voices become US, and who we are as people. If you remember the pilot of Titans, which I think was not shown first, but shown third or something, it was like, "Well, we THINK this is how these guys are going to be...", but then when they had us in the room for the first time and saw who we were, that's what led the direction a lot of where we went and who we were. Who Starfire became was really a lot based on me. If someone else had played her, she would have been a different character in the end.

TZN: Can you talk about anything else you're working on? What's coming up next for Hynden Walch?

What's next? I like this anime show that I do called Lucky Star. I think it's hilarious (laughs). I think it should be on ABC. And, also, I'm doing more ideas business stuff that I can't say anything about yet. Soon! I'll call you back (laughs)!

Toon Zone News would like to thank Hynden Walch for taking the time to talk with us, especially right after wrapping up her two-day seminar, as well as Suzannah Frisbie of Marla Kirban Voice-Over for making this interview possible and David Lyerly from Marla Kirban for letting us sit in on Walch's class and sparing the extra Harley Quinn picture for an autograph.

Favreau gets to work on 'Iron Man 2'

Director Jon Favreau to LA Times blogger Geoff Boucher that he's underway on 'Iron Man 2'.

"We're working on it now," he said, "which hasn't been officially announced. It will be released in 2010."

The article focuses largely on Favreau's current pet project, supporting California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger's bid to create tax breaks to keep more movie projects filming in Hollywood. The move would offset tax incentives sprouting up all over the world, leading filmmakers to roll cameras in New Zealand, Vancouver, Michigan, Rhode Island and many others.

Click here for Boucher's analysis of Schwarzenegger's plan.

Wall•E DVD details surface, expected to be jam-packed

Upcomingpixar reports that unlike Pixar’s previous barebone releases of Cars and Ratatouille, WALL•E would be receiving 4 home video releases. The first being a two disc DVD which will include a directors commentary, Presto & BURN•E, deleted scenes, a sound design featurette, and ‘WALL•E‘s Tour of the Universe’. Additionally there will be a three disc DVD release with all of the above features, plus additional deleted scenes, making of featurettes, BnL shorts, The Pixar Story documentary, ‘WALL•E‘s Treasures and Trinkets’, the ‘Lots of Bots’ storybook, and more. The site also reports that there will also be two Blu-ray releases with the above features besides Disney File, plus Cine-Explore, BURN•E picture-in-picture, Axiom Arcade, Geek Track and the BD Live feature. The most complete release is said to be the 3 disc WALL•E Blu-ray, which will include all of the above plus a DisneyFile digital copy. WALL•E is expected to be out on home video on November 18.

Interview with Hayao Miyazaki, Ponyo wows Japan

GhibliWorld brings an English summary of an interview with Hayao Miyazaki by Robert Whiting, a sport journalist who has been living in Japan for a long time. Miyazaki talks about his childhood life during wartime, Studio Ghibli, and more. In addition, the site also reports that the Japanese box-office collections for Hayao Miyazaki’s latest feature Ponyo on the Cliff has exceeded 10 billion yen. Other Ghibli films which reached this mark were Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke.

The Simpsons: Season 11 DVD in October

DVDActive reports that Fox Home Entertainment has announced the 11th season of The Simpsons for the 7th October. Each of the episodes will be presented in 1.33:1 full frame, along with English Dolby Digital tracks. Extras will include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, an animation showcase, a Line From Matt Groening featurette, and a Commercial.


"Batman: Gotham Knight" 2-Disc Collector's Edition on sale now

On sale now is “Batman: Gotham Knight,” the latest release from Warner Bros.’ DC Universe line of direct-to-DVD features based on the iconic DC Comics superheroes. Split into six chapters created by six different teams of writers, directors, animators, and composers, “Gotham Knight” bridges the gap between 2005’s live-action “Batman Begins” and the forthcoming sequel, “The Dark Knight.”

Veteran telvision writer Alan Burnett, who has penned Emmy Award-winning scripts for “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond” and “The Batman,” wrote the final short, “Deadshot” and also added a ‘connective tissue’ to the six stories. The other five shorts were written by Brian Azzarello (“100 Bullets”), Josh Olson (“A History of Violence”), David Goyer (“Batman Begins” and “JSA”), Greg Rucka (“Final Crisis: Revelations” and “Gotham Central”) and Jordan Camera Goldberg, who helped conceive the overall story and served as an associate producer on Nolan’s “The Prestige” and “The Dark Knight.”

“It was a lot fun,” Alan Burnett told CBR News. “I like the short form. When I first heard it was being done, I was really excited about it. And when I was asked to write one of stories, I was thrilled.”

Scenes from Alan Burnett's contribution to "Batman: Gotham Knight"

Because of his long-history with the character in DC’s animated universe, Burnett was asked to story edit the six stories upon completion to ensure the overall arc flowed naturally. “The producers wanted to connect the stories a little more so I added a connective tissue, but very little,” explained Burnett, “as little as possible because I didn’t want to interfere with the original scripts, which were all great.”

Burnett, who has won four Emmy awards over the past 15-plus years working on animated versions of Batman, added, “I thought it would be nice to see a prism of people’s views on Batman or each writer’s particular take on Batman, so I didn’t want to insert myself. And I didn’t.”

Interestingly, Burnett remarked, “I actually liked the idea of doing stories without the connective tissue. I liked the idea of doing six different Batmans and seeing what everybody came up with. I like shorts that stand on their own.”

While he hardly reinvented the wheels on the Batmobile, Burnett’s “Gotham Knight” story does feature a character he’s been targeting for some time to script, the expert marksman Deadshot. “The story is about eleven minutes long, so it’s not like I am reinventing Batman for my section,” explained Burnett. “What was different was that I was dealing with a villain that we could never do on television " Deadshot. Because he is a guy who uses bullets and I haven’t been able to use bullets since ‘Batman: The Animated Series.’”

Scenes from Alan Burnett's contribution to "Batman: Gotham Knight"

Burnett teased that his story becomes a cat and mouse game between Batman and Deadshot, the man who never uses a gun versus the arguably the best shot in the DCU. “What’s really fun is Deadshot is very much a loner,” said Burnett. “He works by himself and talks to himself and he kills from a distance. I think he takes great pride in what he does because he does it so well. He’s a pretty vicious character. But in some ways, he’s a bit of a coward because he’s killing from a distance.”

Having finished his script nearly a year ago, Burnett was hands-off the “Gotham Knight” project for some time, but he recently saw the finished the product and was amazed by the results. Said the writer-producer, “It’s got a lot of eye candy. And all six stories are very different. They all have different palettes and a different use of lines. That being said, they all work extremely well together.”

One of the writers who entered the Batcave from a different entrance was Greg Rucka. The novelist and comics writer penned the second story in the anthology, entitled “Crossfire.” “I was asked specifically to do a ‘Gotham Central’ type riff,” Rucka told CBR. “It was initially described as a Crispus Allen/Renee Montoya story, but set in this period between the emergence of Batman and the coming of the supervillain crisis.”

Scene from Greg Rucka's "Crossfire"

Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya were both featured in Rucka’s run on the Eisner Award-winning “Gotham Central” as detectives, but are now DCU’s current incarnates of the Spectre and The Question, respectively. Both are also key players in Rucka’s upcoming “Final Crisis: Revelations.”

Like Burnett, Rucka wrote the story ages ago and was then out of the loop until he saw the final cut. “The producers gave me an overview and I sat down and hammered at it and turned in a script,” he said. “They said they liked it and then I went away. You write something for animation and once you script it -- at least this is how I was involved in it -- you have no input and no say. It goes off to Japan and they hand it to the director of the animation studio and these guys make of it what they will. I got to see it a little while ago and it’s not what I pictured in my mind at every turn but you know it’s very hard for me to judge because you try not to come to these things with preconceived notions. But a lot of what I was after got there.”

One thing that didn’t get there was one of Rucka’s favorite characters. “Word trickled down to me that they are changing Montoya to do this character Ramirez, who I guess is in the movie,” said Rucka. “I don’t know if Allen is actually in the movie or not but it’s now Cris and Anna Ramirez.”

Scene from Greg Rucka's "Crossfire"

Rucka was very happy to be included in the project as he is long time fan of many of those involved in “Batman: Gotham Knight.” “Kevin Conroy is doing the voice of Batman. And that’s just so cool,” said the writer. “Conroy’s Batman is perfect. And I love the Alan Burnett, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm animated Batman. I’m working on a thing where Alan Burnett is on it and Bruce Timm is on it. Holy mackerel. It’s that same thrill I got the first time I read a comic and all of sudden, there was an artist and he drew Batman and Batman was saying the stuff I wrote. Now there are a bunch of guys who animated this thing and Kevin Conroy is saying the stuff that I wrote. Wow! It’s really hard to look at any part of that gift horse and any part of its anatomy and not be happy.”

Rucka is also glad to see Crispus Allen, his own original creation, prominently featured in not one but two of his big projects this summer. “I got no complaints. Trust me. I am very happy. I’m just hoping he’s doesn’t wind up dead in anything,” laughed Rucka.

Crispus Allen is voiced by Gary Dourdan, known most notably as Warrick Brown on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” “He did a fine job. The only thing that I found in watching it was that the dialogue ran slower than I had envisioned it,” said Rucka. “And that’s just a pacing thing that comes out of animation. It gets animated a certain way and the actors have to deliver lines to match the animation. So instead of getting the banter between two cops who know each other, everything becomes very severe gravitas. It works, so I am not complaining.”

Samuel L. Jackson say 'The Spirit' is a cartoon

Collider caught up with living legend Samuel L. Jackson while he was doing press rounds for 'Lakeview Terrace'. The actor talked about his various comic-based projects, including 'The Spirit' directed by Frank Miller.

Jsckson told reporters that Miller was "cool" to work with and, as a first-time director, willing to defer to the experience of players like Jackson. The actor also described the film, which does not sound much like the 'Sin City' knockoff fans have been complaining about.

"Frank has made the film he wanted to make, and hopefully it’ll be that. It’s a me. The movie is a cartoon. We do Wile E. Coyote type stuff," Jackson said. "I hit [lead actor Gabriel Macht] with toilets and stuff. We’re both indestructible. I created him and made him indestructible, and then I turned around and used the stuff on me, so I’m indestructible, and even when I get shot I shake the bullets out of my head. It’s a cartoon...I get to dress up like a Nazi!"

Jackson also says he hopes he'll be in the 'Iron Man 2' and 'Avengers' movies, but he hasn't heard anything about them from Marvel.

Also, the second season of 'Afro Samurai' is complete. A video game is to follow and the actor just got the first draft of the script for the live-action movie.

NY TV Fest Previews HBO’s Tim

The New York Television Festival (NYTVF) will include animation in its third annual Premiere Week screening series, taking place Sept. 12-17. A sneak preview of HBO’s new half-hour, animated series, The Life and Times of Tim, will screen on Wednesday, Sept. 17, followed by a conversation with the show's creator and exec producer, Steven Dildarian. The fest will also offer first looks as new shows from ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC ad Media Rights Capital (MRC) and The CW. All Premiere Week events will take place at New World Stages in Midtown Manhattan.

Produced for HBO by MRC, The Life and Times of Tim centers on a typical, twentysomething New Yorker who's looking to get ahead at work. His girlfriend, Amy, wants him to be normal like her friends' boyfriends, but Tim’s everyday decisions are compromised by his habit of befriending unreliable characters who repeatedly get him into serious trouble. Tom Werner, Jimmy Miller and Mike Clements serve as exec producers along with Dildarian, who also voices the title role. The cast also includes Mary Jane Otto as Amy, Peter Giles as The Boss, Matt Johnson as The Boss' assistant, Rodney (as well as other characters) and Nick Kroll as Tim's best friend, Stu. The 10-episode first season of The Life and Times of Tim kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 28 at 11 p.m. (ET) on HBO.

NYTVF Attendees will also get first looks at ABC's Life on Mars, FOX's Fringe, CBS's Worst Week, The CW and Media Rights Capital's Easy Money, and the second season of NBC's Life, among other programs. This year marks the third year of participation for ABC, FOX and NBC, and the first involvement of CBS, MRC and HBO.

Passes for Premiere Week events are available on the Festival Web site. To order, go to and click on “Box Office.” Single tickets to some events will be made available at a later date. The 2008 NYTVF opens on Friday, Sept.12th and runs through Wednesday, September 17th.

Pinky Dinky Doo Returrns to NOGGIN

The animated, interactive preschool series Pinky Dinky Doo from Sesame Workshop and Cartoon Pizza is coming back to NOGGIN with a new look for a second season launching in primetime on Sunday, Sept. 7. Two new episodes will debut back-to-back starting at 7 p.m. (ET) on Nickelodeon’s commercial-free, educational network for preschoolers. The season two launch airs during an all-day marathon of literacy-themed episodes of Dora the Explorer, Little Bill, Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! and Max & Ruby, among others, as part of September's “Get Ready To Read” month on the network.

An original NOGGIN series based on the popular books by Cartoon Pizza president and co-founder Jim Jinkins (Doug, PB&J Otter), Pinky Dinky Doo is dedicated to enhancing early literacy. Each episode consists of two stories with a break in between where Pinky leads viewers through a set of interactive games designed to reinforce core elements of narrative and comprehension strategies, while also expanding vocabulary through word play.

The show was previously produced with Falsh animation over photo collage backgrounds, but will now feature a 3D element. Sesame Workshop and Cartoon Pizza have partnered with Abrams/Gentile Ent. and Canadian animation company Keyframe to facilitate the shift to three-dimensional sets and props.

The Pinky Dinky Doo primetime premieres will be followed by an entire week of new episodes starting Monday, Sept. 8. Also launching that day are season two episodes on NOGGIN Video On Demand via Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Cablevision, Verizon FiOS and Cox. Additionally, will feature new printable activities, episode clips and a Pinky-themed doodle pad. Kids may even get to see their Pinky artwork on-air as a "doodle of the day."

Veggie Pirates Plunder to DVD

After making nearly $13 million at the box office, the latest animated vegetable adventure from Big Idea and Universal Pictures sets sail for the shores of home video, where the franchise’s real treasure is buried. The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie will land on retail shelves on Oct. 14, offering mroe than two hours of bonus features, including an all-new, extended ending and family activities.

Written by Phil Vischer and directed by Mike Nawrocki, the team behind 2002’s indie animation hit Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything revolves around supporting characters introduced in that first movie. A trio of lazy would-be vegetable pirates must rise to the occasion and learn what it means to be heroes when a message from the past sends them on a time-traveling mission to save a royal family.

Behind-the-scenes featurettes included on the disc are Making a Veggie Pirate Movie, featuring interviews with the production staff; and Why We Do it, with - interviews on the reasons for making the story. There will also be an art gallery with commentary, a tutorial on how to draw various Veggie characters presented by concept artists, select scenes with commentary by characters, and commentary from the production team. Larry the Cucumber takes viewers on trips to firehouses, police stations and other locations to learn What Makes a Hero, and viewers can visit a marina to explore life on the water in Out to Sea. Families will also be able to undertake a treasure adventure, play various games that unlock bonus clips from the movie, participate in a pirate sing-along, print out pirate finger puppets, and walk the Fashion Plank, an interactive dress-up activity featuring characters from the film in silly costumes. Other bonus features include an interactive storybook, a parents’ guide to values reflected in the movie, coloring pages and a desktop wallpaper.

The Universal Studios Home Entertainment release is rated G and will carry a suggested retail price of $29.98.

More Nightmare Revealed on Blu-ray

Disney’s stereoscopic 3-D makeover of The Nightmare Before Christmas offered fans a fresh look at the animated holiday favorite from producer Tim Burton. The pic will once again be seen in a new light when it debuts on Blu-ray Disc on Aug. 26. Director Henry Selick tells SCI FI Channel’s SCI FI Wire that the high-def format will reveal details not visible in earlier home video releases.

Those who purchase the Blu-ray version are encouraged by Selick to look in the shadow areas to see various background elements, and to notice such details as the hand-painted stripes on Jack Skellington’s clothing, the leaves that make up Sallie’s stuffing and the bugs crawling in and out of Oogie Boogie.

The release will also include an animated version of Burton's original poem, which is narrated by horror film great Christopher Lee and inspired the stop-motion feature. Jack is quite a bit more sinister in the poem than he is in the movie, which transfers many of his unsavory traits to the villainous character of Oogie Boogie.

NVIDIA CUDA Conference Set for NVISION ’08

The NVISION ’08 visual computing conference, taking place Aug. 25-27 in San Jose, Calif., will include a CUDA Developer Conference for software developers interested in accelerating their applications using the NVIDIA CUDA software development environment. Sessions are designed for both experienced CUDA programmers as well as those new to the technology, which is based on the C programming language and is becoming a standard in the computing market.

One of the highlights of the CUDA Conference will be a session by William Dorland of the University of Maryland. The program will focus on his work in porting simulations of black hole dynamics, plasma turbulence and n-body dynamics to clusters of NVIDIA GPUs using CUDA technology. Modest-size codes of a few thousand lines were ported to the GPU hardware in less than a day with speedups of 25 to 30 times that achieved with traditional architectures. By moving to clusters of high-performance GPUs, Dorland expects to be able to produce results on an inexpensive, many-teraflop local cluster.

Also planned is a panel discussion on the future of parallel and GPU computing. The chat will be moderated by Dr. David Kirk, chief scientist at NVIDIA, and will feature Dr. Wen-mei Hwu of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Satoshi Matsuoka of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Kathy Yelick of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Other highlights include a session by John Stone of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on accelerating computational biology programs up to 100 times using CUDA technology; a roundtable discussion on how to teach parallel programming using CUDA technology, led by Dr. Wen-mei Hwu of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and a session presented by NVIDIA’s Joseph Stam on next-generation computer vision using CUDA technology.

The CUDA Developer Conference will also include workshops on CUDA development tools and libraries, basic and advanced training on how to develop applications using CUDA technology, and demonstrations and discussions of the performance gains and cost savings achieved. Participants in these sessions include leading industry and academic experts in the fields of molecular dynamics and computational chemistry; computational finance and quantitative risk analysis; geophysical and seismic processing; video, imaging, and computer vision; and astrophysics and astronomy.

Registration for the NVISION 08 conference is now open. Complete information on the CUDA Developer Conference, including how to register, can be found at For more information on NVIDIA CUDA technology, see

Year of the Fish: An Animated Feature?

As the line between live-action and animation blurs, there are more and more controversies about what qualifies as animation. Is A Scanner Darkly animation? Is Beowulf animation? It’s all up for debate. Here’s an easy one though. Is Year of the Fish animation? Most definitely not.

Year of the Fish is an indie film that opens next week in New York and San Francisco. I’m perplexed why the filmmakers are billing the film as an “animated feature film” when there is nothing remotely resembling animation in the trailer (watch it here).

Movement that is created in real-time and then digitally-enhanced does not fit the definition of animation, which is generally acknowledged to be movement created frame-by-frame through the manipulation of static images. The confusion with films like A Scanner Darkly and Beowulf stems from the fact that there is possibly enough frame-by-frame enhancement and distortion of the recorded live-action footage to constitute animation.

Year of the Fish, on the other hand, appears to have had minimal work done on it by animation artists. Here’s the description of the “animation process” from the film’s website:

Using Synthetik Studio Artist….Kaplan and his small group of part-time assistants were able to work quickly and efficiently, doing with 3 people what would normally employ 40 full-time animators. A single miniDV live-action frame was upconverted to a high-definition painted frame, and that one frame was interpolated into a technique for converting an entire shot. After rendering these shots, Kaplan and his team were able to go back and refine the images frame by frame, add particle effects, and hand-paint details. This entire animation process was achieved on four Macintosh G5 computers and two Wacom tablets, and took only 6 months.

The process described—which is setting a stylistic filter on one frame per scene and rendering out the rest of the scene with that filter setting—is not animation. The filmmaker does say he went back for frame-by-frame manipulation, but it’s evident from the trailer that they were enhancing the filter effects frame-by-frame, not creating or enhancing movement frame-by-frame. The number of digital crew (3) and amount of time it took to do the “animation” (6 months) also makes clear that this is more a case of digital processing than animation.

In recent years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has qualified films like Waking Life and Beowulf for Oscar consideration in the animated feature category. It’s a slippery slope that has now opened the doors wide open for experimental live-action films like Year of the Fish to claim that they are animated.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

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